While the road between Nashville and Chattanooga may feel as though it's more scenic than anything else, travelers can find fun diversions to break up a boring drive. Museums, historic markings and oddities of all sorts — from giant statues made of scrap metal to the grave of a literate horse — make the I-24 corridor a good place to scavenge for interesting sights and entertainment.
The University of the South, also known as Sewanee, is tucked away in the Tennessee Mountains atop the Cumberland Plateau, 50 miles west of Chattanooga. The campus, which is often noted not only for its top-notch academics but also for its beauty, covers 13,000 pristine acres. It's the perfect place to stop for a roadside picnic. If you have time, you can schedule a tour of the historic campus — it recently celebrated its 150th year.
Insider's Tip: In the summer, check out Sewanee's well-respected classical music festival. www2.sewanee.edu/ssmf/new_page_builder_10
735 University Ave., Sewanee, Tenn.; Phone: 931-598-1000; www.sewanee.edu
2. Whitwell Middle School Holocaust Box Car
Visit Whitwell Middle School and its Holocaust Box Car, made famous in the documentary "Paper Clips." The car is filled with
11 million paper clips, symbolizing those killed in the Holocaust.
Insider's Tip: During school hours, audio tours are available from the principal's office; when school is not in session, tourists must get a key from Whitwell's police station. The car is kept tightly under lock and key; call ahead to ensure you'll see it.
1130 Main St., Whitwell, Tenn.; Phone: 423-658-5631
3. House with 1,000 Civil War Bullet Holes
In Franklin, Tenn., there stands a house riddled with 1,000 Civil War bullet holes. On Nov. 30, 1864, the Battle of Franklin raged around the Carter family's home for five hours, killing more Rebel generals than any other conflict. All but one member of the Carter family, a soldier, survived.
Insider's Tip: While the house itself, is an impressive relic of the Civil War, the eight acres of surrounding "battlefield" are no less significant. The Battle of Franklin is regarded as a turning point in the Confederate campaign.
1140 Columbia Ave., Franklin, Tenn.; Phone: 615-791-1861; www.carter-house.org; Admission $7 adults; $3 children under 13. Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon. through Sat., 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sun., April through October;
9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mon. through Sat., 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sun., November through March.
4. Beautiful Jim Key's grave
Pay your respects at the grave of Beautiful Jim Key, a former slave peddler's horse that learned to count and read letters using alphabet blocks. Famous in the late 1800s and early 1900s, he was honored at two World Fairs: Jim Key had his own Pavilion in St. Louis and inspired kindness to animals worldwide.
Insider's Tip: For some perspective on the storied horse and the impact he made around the world, consider taking a history lesson in the form of his biography, Beautiful Jim Key, by Mim Eichler Rivas. www.beautifuljimkey.com
Highway 130, just south of Shelbyville and a few miles beyond the Duck River, Shelbyville, Tenn.
5. Cumberland Caverns
Cumberland Caverns, touted as Tennessee's largest "show cave," promises to bring out the spelunker in even the most apprehensive travelers. In addition to hosting school field trips and day tours, the Caverns also offer overnight spelunking trips for adventurous visitors interested in explorations and underground camping. For those who think caves are more romantic than creepy, Cumberland Caverns offers a wedding package, complete with a tour, meal and an on-staff minister. A crystal chandelier, originally installed in 1928 in the Loews Metropolitan Theatre in Brooklyn, N.Y., hangs in the massive "Volcano Room" and lends quirky elegance.
Insider's Tip: Recently, Cumberland Caverns began hosting "Bluegrass Underground," a live bluegrass concert that can be heard on Saturdays at 5 p.m., on WSM radio, just before the Grand Ole Opry airs. If you're interested in attending the concert (tickets are about $20), visit www. bluegrassunderground.com
1437 Cumberland Caverns Road, McMinnville, Tennessee 37110, Phone: 931-668-4396; www.cumberlandcaverns.com; Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for children. The cave is open year-round, Mon.-Sun., from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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